In the first meeting of the new cabinet yesterday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave a tough warning to ministers and secretaries against corruption, saying actions would be taken immediately if anyone was found to be involved in unlawful activities.
She also directed the authorities concerned to strictly maintain law and order, work sincerely and concentrate on establishing good governance in the country in order to fulfill the expectations of the people.
“I will show zero tolerance to corruption. None will be spared. You have been made ministers for working for the people, not for fulfilling any other intention," a minister present at the meeting quoted the premier as saying.
In her new cabinet, Sheikh Hasina discarded a number of Awami League leaders, who were in the cabinet of her past government, for their alleged involvement in corruption.
Talking to The Daily Star after the meeting yesterday, another minister, wishing anonymity, said the prime minister asked the finance minister to check whether the wealthy people pay taxes properly and take action accordingly.
Hasina, in the first cabinet meeting of the past government, also issued similar warnings to ministers. Some cabinet members, however, paid little attention to her warnings and went on to indulge themselves in corruption, amassing huge amounts of wealth during the five-year tenure of the government.
At yesterday's meeting, several ministers, including those from the Jatiya Party, praised the prime minister for her bold leadership in holding the 10th parliamentary elections and forming the new government.
In response, the premier said the government had come to power overcoming massive odds and difficulties and so, the ministers would have to work sincerely to fulfil the expectations of the people.
“You [ministers and secretaries] have to work sincerely to serve the people and to carry forward the development activities undertaken by the government,” she said.
Hasina also directed the cabinet to swiftly implement the Annual Development Programmes.
“The prime minister will sit with us to discuss the revised budget and what we should do in the coming days as half of this fiscal year has already gone,” Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury told The Daily Star.
Another source in the meeting said Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, asked the cabinet members to work in maintaining the clean image of the new government.
Referring to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's press conference on Wednesday, the premier commented that her speech was full of lies and propagandas.
She directed the ministers and lawmakers to respond to Khaleda's falsehood with accurate information, sources added.
On the BNP-Jamaat's attacks on Hindus and AL men surrounding the January 5 elections, the premier asked the authorities concerned to take necessary steps to rehabilitate them.
Pointing to new programmes announced by Khaleda, Sheikh Hasina emphatically said that no anti-government move would be successful if the law and order situation stayed under control.
The JP ministers present at the meeting said they would play a strong role as the opposition and come up with constructive criticism of the government where necessary, sources added.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith informed the premier that 54 associated organisations of Grameen Bank had enjoyed tax exemption facilities in breach of laws, another minister told The Daily Star.
The cabinet also approved the draft of the speech of President Abdul Hamid to be delivered on the first day of the first session of the 10th parliament on January 29.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the speech of the president would highlight the country's overall situation and macroeconomic condition, successes of the past government in socio-economic development, guidelines for realising the Vision-2021 and progress of the war crimes trial.
The new cabinet was formed on January 12 after the AL won the virtually one-sided national elections on January 5 with a brute majority.